At Wondering Fair, we love the little story. We understand a universal God through the gritty particulars of animal instincts and awaiting adoptions, of breastfeeding babies and ‘Black Friday’ blues. Through the prism of our everyday experiences, we sense thin places where the eternal breaks into the everyday. The Divine Score resonates through the humility of crotchets and quavers, and we pause long enough to hear the music. Perhaps we may even recognise the Creator playing in the least expected places.
But not necessarily. Like a sonata, we may add note upon note of immanent experiences, and never understand the transcendent song. Our apprehensions from below may be beautiful, but we require revelation from above to take ethereal sounds from the unknown God and return them heavenward in a reverent cantata of praise. To switch metaphors and put it simply, our little stories only make sense in light of the Big Story. So as this new year is taking form, and that we may not miss the forest for the trees, I thought it timely to tell the old, old story once again. But let’s begin with you: what kind of story are you in?
Ever feel like an actor without a script? From the day you entered the world with a cry, you sensed that you’re part of something bigger: an epic story of sorts. But what kind of story are you in? A comedy or a tragedy? A meandering Indie flick? Or a sweeping drama like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with a battle to fight, and where love wins? How to tell? Stories abound: I’m a cosmic accident; I’m just an animal; I’m a reincarnated lost soul; I’m the experiment of a disinterested deity. Which, if any, is the true story?
What if there is a story that just fit? A story that embraces your own story, and everyday experience? A bigger story that makes sense of how we got here, of life’s meaning, the heart of our problem, and the solution to it all? What if there is a Director who isn’t silent, who has told us stuff we could never work out for ourselves, even about what happens when you shut your eyes for the last time?
We all live according to the story we think we’re in. So take a chance and step into the following epic: a story with five scenes. It’s a basic summary of another story, The Bible, which Christians believe is the Director’s take on how all our stories hang together. Let’s start in the present though.
Look around. Describe the world. What do you see? Good stuff? Like friends, footy, flowers, mountains, concerns, travel, Thai food, and so on. (Is there another planet where you’d rather be?!) But is that all? Flick on the news. What about the not so good stuff? Like addiction, depression, divorce, death, rape, corruption, war, global warming, poverty, pollution, and on it goes. Do you ever get the sense that something’s gone wrong? That this is not the way it’s supposed to be?
Why is that? We’re thirsty for a perfect world, but what can satisfy? Maybe it was good, or will be good, but right now it’s messed up. Let’s enter the Director’s Epic Story, right at the beginning, and it’ll start to make sense. …
Scene #1: Designed for Good. The epic starts with God. Drop the images of a distant deity wilding lightning bolts. This story’s Director is passionate and relational, an artist who paints an Oasis and plants us there. And in the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. Why? Well, He made us to love God, love each other, and cultivate the world as good gardeners should. (Imagine connection with your Creator, society in harmony without selfishness, and work which you enjoy that helps the world thrive.) This is the form in which we find freedom. But just as love is only real when it isn’t forced, the Director gives us all a choice. And clearly we’re not in Eden anymore.
Scene #2: Damaged by Evil. “Who’s God to tell me what to do?” So we, the actors, rebelled against the Director and tried writing our own script in a form we preferred. We’ve eaten the forbidden fruit, and tried to play God. Meaning? We’ve ignored and despised God, abused each other, and vandalized the planet. That’s sin—missing the mark for which we were made. We’ve turned inward, and act like the universe revolves around us. And we’ve built our lives around good stuff that can never satisfy like God: relationships, sex, status, sport … our symptoms differ, but the syndrome’s the same. The result? The world’s damaged, our relationships are divided, and our identity (our heart) is a mess. We’re broken, and we break. Worse, we’re to blame. God is loving and just, so what’s a passionate Director to do?
For that, you’ll have to tune in on Thursday for The Epic Story Part II.
 Adapted, with permission, from James Choung, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In (IVP, 2008).